Friday, October 11, 2013

Maybe Next Year, Baby

Some nights it's good to be called "baby."

It was pouring down rain, I wanted some hot food and the first place that came to mind was Mama J's, four blocks away.

Walking in, I found a WRIR DJ and his son waiting for a table, but when I told the hostess all I needed was a bar stool, she responded, "Right this way, honey."

My DJ friend made fun of me for getting the rock star treatment, but it's all in where you're willing to sit. Pulling out the stool, she gestured, "Especially for you, baby."

With a Motown soundtrack (Supremes, Commodores,Isaac Hayes) blaring over the noise of a full restaurant, the bartender greeted me with, "How you doin' baby?"

Quite well, thank you.

She wanted me to know that I had five minutes until happy hour ended and the guy standing next to me looked at me and said, "I don't know about you, but I'm having a double Jack Daniels."

A single Patron was plenty when what I really wanted was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cole slaw and a corn muffin.

I was right by the corner where people come in to grab their to-go orders, so I met the first-timer in picking up food for his wife who worked nearby.

When I asked if he was taking her a piece of cake, he said no, he hadn't ordered any, unaware of the magic of Mama's cakes.

Next time, son, and she'll be yours for life. The woman next to me agreed loudly.

She was picking up and she ruefully shared that she'd just been in on Sunday and was already back.

No shame in being a regular, I told her, but had she gotten the same thing?

"I always get the catfish, but tonight I got the trout," she said, looking pretty pleased with herself.

Not long after my plate arrived, a group of four came in for their to-go order and stopped short when they saw my food.

"I'm gonna come back as a chicken in my next life," one girl claimed.

"I'm gonna eat you if you look like that," her friend said, pointing at my chicken.

Waiting for their order, they caught sight of the cake case and were smitten with the pink and yellow one, asking the bartender what it was.

"Strawberry lemon," she said matter of factly.

"Give. Me. That," on of the guys instructed her, grinning ear to ear.

"Are you gonna get that?" the girl asked incredulously.

"I'm gonna lay in it," he said and asked for a second slice. They left with their order plus four pieces of cake.

Before long, I had to get going ("Sure, baby") to my next stop, Studio 23, freeing up a prime stool for one of the many people lined up by the door.

Richmond's finest print collective was playing host to Music Video Meltdown, part of their monthly film and video series.

Waiting for it to start, I checked out Studio 23's new exhibit, "Sweaty Armpits and Swimming Pools," a summer-themed 'zine show.

The little 'zines ranged from beautifully illustrated books to actual stories with pictures and had post-modern names like "Why Can't the Internet Work Everywhere?" (a title that could only have been thought up by a millennial), "Maybe Next Year" and "Deep End."

Tonight's event had begun with a call for music videos, but the response had been insufficient for an entire evening's programming, so the host had supplemented with videos selected by an informal poll of his friends.

The Spring film and video series had raised enough money to buy a new projector and Bose speakers, and we were the first to experience the new equipment tonight, meaning naturally there were immediate technical difficulties.

They kicked things off with Michael Jackson's "Beat It," a good reminder of MJ pre-cleft chin and final pointy nose, but then went unfortunately to Nicki Minaj, someone whose video I never needed to see.

The submitted videos were cool to see, although it soon became clear that today's young music video-makers are completely fixated on special effects, violence, constantly changing camera angles and blood.

But not all. One was a light show set to Radiohead's "Spinning Plates" and another had a young, red-headed guy singing a song in an empty white room.

One of my favorites began with a guy talking mock-seriously about the infinite cosmos and then shooting a cassette tape out into space and segued into him singing and playing a poppy song with another guy, which they ultimately recorded on (what else?) a cassette tape.

There was a video shot of an evening at Gallery 5, fire twirlers outside, art-hungry crowd inside and I recognized two friends in it. Hell, I was probably there that night.

But for every submission, there was a price to pay, whether M.I.A.'s "Bad Girls" or  a bad white rapper drinking a 40 with his homies, shouting, "Hold up, it's a dance party," at the break.

I had to sit through the Foo Fighters' cheesy, over-wrought video for "There Goes My Hero," but got payback when I saw Cold Cave's synth-laden "God Made the World."

It all evens out in the end.

The last time I spent an evening watching videos was in Italy last October and then they were all McCartney and Lennon videos from the '80s, a far cry from tonight's program.

Seems I need an annual music video dose.

Afterwards, I headed to the Well for a couple of notoriously loud bands.

Like any show there, they weren't even close to starting at 11:15, so I mingled among the PBR-swilling masses.

I got to discuss the terrific Shuggie Otis show with a friend who'd also gone, ran into not one but both of the friends I'd seen in the Gallery 5 video, talked to the guy who's curating an upcoming Listening Room and somehow managed to find a friend who'd never seen the Diamond Center at the Well before.

Considering I've probably seen the band at least a half dozen times there, I was surprised, but warned him that they've been known to come on as late as 12:15.

Nashville's Ttotals played first, all reverb and '90s-sounding and playing to a packed room.

I've seen them before and their exuberant energy is worth experiencing.

During the break after their set, I got into a chat with a scientist who informed me that all human life is descended from six humans.

There's not a lot I can do with that information, my friend.

He also pointed out what he considered to be a fascinating scientific fact: It's 60 degrees and people were wearing jackets and knit caps.

His point was that in six months it'll also be 60 degrees and people will have on shorts and flip-flops.

He's wise beyond his years and hipster haircut.

Another friend and guitarist asked if I'd held the newest restaurant baby (of course) and told me he'd heard from a reliable source that tonight's Diamond Center set was going to be very Phish-like.

Meandering jams sounded like just the ticket at this point.

Around 12:30, the Diamond Center took the floor, breaking their own record, and began their slow, psychedelic groove, made even groovier by Dave Watson's light projections overhead.

After a drawn-out first song, they reverted to some newish material and eventually a brand-new one.

"That's a song that'll be on our new CD," leader Kyle joked, "which should come out in about fifteen years."

I guess parenthood has slowed them down, too.

As many times as I've seen the Diamond Center, they never fail to impress as I was reminded when a friend walked up and assuredly said, "They're going to end up being the biggest band to ever come out of Richmond."

Entirely possible. That's why I'm willing to go see them start playing at 12:30 on a Thursday night.

My ears may be ringing, but baby, it was worth it.


  1. I liked the observation of peoples choice of dress in 60 degrees......

  2. Because you just know that it's not nearly cold enough for knit hats and jackets yet. Don't rush the cold, people! It'll be here soon enough.